1) Sugar is going out of fashion
Uber-decadent desserts just don't seem to get people excited the way they used to. "Heightened awareness of the dangers of eating too much sugar – this having become a major food issue – has put increased pressure on the ice cream and desserts market," says Mintel senior analyst Emma Clifford.
2) But health sells…
Despite consumers watching their waistlines, a rise in health-conscious dining means there is serious legroom to innovate with low-fat and low-sugar alternatives such as yoghurt. Products containing naturally sourced sweeteners such as stevia are also attracting significant interest, according to Clifford.
3) … and premium is king
Despite volume sales of ice cream falling by 7% over the past five years, inflation has led to the market value increasing by a considerable amount. And it's high-end, premium ice creams that are outperforming swathes of their competitors – a demonstration that people are becoming more willing to treat themselves to the odd 'luxury' dish, according to Mintel.
4) Big up your ingredients
With customers wanting to know more details about where their food comes from and how it has been produced, shouting about the quality and locality of your ice cream can be an effective way of marketing your offer, according to Will Hawking, owner of Marshfield Farm Ice Cream.
5) Personality brings them back
Whether you're a small, independent gastropub or part of a large group, making sure your ice cream is personally differentiated from the competition is a fail-safe way to encourage repeat trade. "When you engage your customers through flavour and through product, it is really rewarding," says Paul Dickinson, head of food at Fuller's. Creating more unorthodox flavours such as cardamom and Earl Grey encourages the company's chefs to be more inventive with their desserts, he adds.
6) Don't be afraid to push the boat out
Emily Watkins, chef-patron of award-winning pub the Kingham Plough, Oxford, sells her home-made Emily's Ice Cream from behind the bar and via one local retailer. She opts to create flavours based on seasonal ingredients and avoid staples like chocolate and vanilla. "You can get chocolate ice cream anywhere," she says. "There are some exceptional ones already out there and I'm not out to beat anyone's chocolate ice cream."